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For three quarters and almost six minutes of the fourth on Jan. 21, 1979, Super Bowl XIII, which Pittsburgh wound up winning 35-31, was everything professional football's championship game is supposed to be but rarely is. It had the two best teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys, doing amazing things in heroic--and sometimes haphazard, even peculiar--fashion on the damp Orange Bowl turf.
It had Terry Bradshaw passing the Steelers to a quick 7-0 lead on a 28-yard lob to John Stallworth in the end zone at the end of a bang-bang 53-yard drive. It had Bradshaw losing the ball on a fumble, and then three plays later Roger Staubach combining with Tony Hill on a 39-yard touchdown pass that tied the score at 7-7 on the last play of the first quarter. It had Bradshaw, after recovering his own fumble in the backfield, being sandwiched by linebackers Thomas ( Hollywood) Henderson and Mike Hegman, with Henderson pinning Bradshaw's arms while Hegman pickpocketed the ball and ran 37 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Dallas lead. It had Bradshaw complaining that his left shoulder was sore and being told by a team doctor that it might be separated.
It had Bradshaw immediately returning to the game and throwing a short first-down pass to the ubiquitous Stallworth, who turned it into a 75-yard touchdown as Dallas cornerback Aaron Kyle, who had been burned on the first touchdown, missed a tackle. It had Bradshaw sending Pittsburgh to the locker room with a 21-14 halftime lead by lofting a seven-yard pass to a leaping Rocky Bleier in the end zone.
All game long Bradshaw was the dominant presence. He was mainly responsible for turning XIII into the best Super Bowl game of all as well as the highest-scoring. It was Bradshaw who took ferocious licks from a Dallas defense that sacked him four times. It was Bradshaw who kept playing with an injured shoulder. It was Bradshaw who kept finding Lynn Swann and Stallworth and tight end Randy Grossman just when he needed them.
"Today I relaxed, felt good and had fun," said Bradshaw, who was the unanimous choice for MVP. "I don't need anyone telling me how great or how smart I am, or how smart I'm not. I just tried to go out there and help win a football game."
Which he did--and